There are 26 first magnitude fresh water springs in Florida. Some are small sand boils and some are huge caverns with collapsed roofs. This super simple guide will introduce you to some of the best Florida Springs and tell you what you can’t miss at each.
1. Alexander Springs – Turtles, Lillies, Clear Blue Water, and Deep Spring Hole
Alexander Springs is not one to miss. It is in the middle of Ocala National Forest and is one of the most beautiful springs of any. Snorkeling is amazing, diving down into the fresh water hole with crystal blue water about 20ft deep. The surrounding water around the spring is really neat too with turtles swimming in and out of the lilies and fish everywhere. Bring a kayak, canoe, or standup paddle board to explore down the river, just watch out for gators :-0
The camping here is great! More information on their website here.
2. Silver Glen Springs – Deep Blue Spring Hole, Secret Sand Boils, and Fish Everywhere.
Silver Glen Springs is an amazing day stop. The colors here are some of the best out of all the Florida Springs. The fresh water current flowing out of the spring 20ft down is surprisingly strong, pushing you away from the dark craters and holes at the bottom where some shy fish hide. Surrounding the deep spring is a shallow sandy bottom with friendly Tilapia everywhere and Florida Gar hiding in the mangrove roots. Don’t forget to follow the skinny path a short ways through the forest to see the natural sand boils that are formed from the flowing fresh water. Keep your eyes peeled for hiding frogs in the darker parts of the shallow water. Check out the Silver Glen Spring Website.
3. Salt Spring – Possible Manatees, Fishing, and Camping
Salt spring has a retaining wall built around it and isn’t as deep or clear as some other springs but it is still a neat place to checkout if you have the time and is also a great spot to camp for the night. When the weather is cold there is a chance to see manatees migrate towards the warmer fresh water flowing out of the spring. As a general rule, the colder it is and has been, the better chance there is to see manatees in the spring. The fishing is suppose to be pretty good outside the spring and there is a boat ramp to launch a small boat if you bring one. For more information on Salt Spring click here.
4. Rainbow Spring – Waterfalls, Tubing, and Great Paddling
Rainbow Springs is a super cool and unique place just west of Ocala in Dunnellon, FL. It is a large State Park and was a promoted tourist attraction back in the 50’s with submarine rides and mermaid tours. The gaudy tourist attractions are mostly gone now and much of the state park looks very natural. The waterfalls around Rainbow Springs are beautiful and popular for the backdrop of engagement photos. Although not naturally forming, the waterfalls were still built from local rocks at the bottom of the Rainbow River. A popular activity at Rainbow Springs is to take a tube from the headwaters down the river. The more adventurous traveler might prefer to paddle the river. You can paddle against the semi-moderate current if you have at least a mild paddling background. Florida Spring State Park offers camping on the other side of the river but make sure to make a reservation in advance. You can visit their website for more information.
5. Crystal River – Manatees, Scalloping, Manatees
Crystal River is known for the place to be able to swim with manatees. There are three main springs at Crystal River, King Spring, Three Sisters Spring, and Hunter Spring. You can launch a kayak or paddle board for free at Hunter Springs Park and paddle through all of Kings bay if the wind isn’t too strong. The main thing to know when visiting Crystal River is that the manatees are only really there when the weather is cool, December-March. The colder the better. There are a ton of companies that will take you on a manatee tour and boat ride. They seem to know where the manatees have been, how to find them, rules/laws, and etiquette when checking out the manatees. Check out Birds Underwater, Crystal River Water Sports, or Manatee Tours USA if you would like to go on a tour. If you talk to enough people and you completely understand the rules and laws you can check out the manatees yourself. Two of the main things to remember when visiting the manatees on your own is to use “Passive Observation”, and do not enter the refuge areas which are marked off with red and white buoys. Summertime is a great time to snorkel for scallops in a bunch of different areas of Crystal River. You can even bring your catch to local restaurants like Charlie’s Fish House or Cracker’s and they will cook them up for you.
We found a really cool campground about 30 minutes East of Crystal River. Only 4 group sites in the woods on a beautiful little lake. The campground is in Fort Cooper State Park.
6. Devil’s Den – Underground Cavern, Vine-Lined Roof Skylight, Beams Of Sunshine, and Underwater Caves
Devil’s Den is by for the coolest and most unique spring that we visited. As you approach the collapsed cavern roof from ground level it just looks like a sink hole with vines growing down it but when you get close and take a glimpse over the edge you see the sun lighting up beautiful crystal blue water where the cavern opens wide. Snorkeling or scuba diving is a must at this spring. Swimming around you can see beams of light shining through the hole in the ceiling and shooting through the clear water. There are turtles and fish in the spiring which gets to about 50ft. deep. Unfortunately there is no free diving or breath holding below 8′ of the surface but you can scuba dive Devil’s Den if you prefer and explore all that the cavern has to offer. Devil’s Den is a MUST SEE if you are going to visit any of the Florida Springs. Don’t forget to visit the beautiful botanical garden on the adjacent property to the spring. Check out my other post on Devil’s Den for more pictures or visit Devil’s Den Website for more information.
Bonus – Homemade Whoopie Pies!
On your way through all the springs make sure to visit our friend Jane at Sweet Jane’s Whoopie Pies. These homemade whoopee pies don’t compare to any store bought desserts anywhere!
If we missed anything or you know of a spring that we need to explore feel free to write it in the comments below. Thank you for reading, now get out and explore!